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Decision making is the study of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision maker. Making a decision implies that there are alternative choices to be considered, and in such a case we want not only to identify as many of these alternatives as possible but to choose the one that (1) has the highest probability of success or effectiveness and (2) best fits with our goals, desires, lifestyle, values, and so on. 2. Decision making is the process of sufficiently reducing uncertainty and doubt about alternatives to allow a reasonable choice to be made from among them. This definition stresses the information-gathering function of decision making. It should be noted here that uncertainty is reduced rather than eliminated. Very few decisions are made with absolute certainty because complete knowledge about all the alternatives is seldom possible. Thus, every decision involves a certain amount of risk. Decision Making is a Recursive Process A critical factor that decision theorists sometimes neglect to emphasize is that in spite of the way the process is presented on paper, decision making is a nonlinear, recursive process. That is, most decisions are made by moving back and forth between the choice of criteria (the characteristics we want our choice to meet) and the identification of alternatives (the possibilities we can choose from among). The alternatives available influence the criteria we apply to them, and similarly the criteria we establish influence the alternatives we will consider. Let's look at an example to clarify this. Suppose someone wants to decide, Should I get married? Notice that this is a decision whether. A linear approach to decision making would be to decide this question by weighing the reasons pro and con (what are the benefits and drawbacks of getting married) and then to move to the next part of the process, the identification of criteria (supportive, easy going, competent, affectionate, etc.). Next, we would identify alternatives likely to have these criteria (Kathy, Jennifer, Michelle, Julie, etc.). Finally we would evaluate each alternative according to the criteria and choose the one that best meets the criteria. We would thus have a scheme like this: decision whether ... select criteria ... identify alternatives ... make choice However, the fact is that our decision whether to get married may really be a contingent decision. "I'll get married if I can find the right person." It will thus be influenced by the identification of alternatives, which we usually think of as a later step in the process. Similarly, suppose we have arrived at the "identify alternatives" stage of the process when we discover that Jennifer (one of the girls identified as an alternative) has a wonderful personality characteristic that we had not even thought of before, but that we now really want to have in a wife. We immediately add that characteristic to our criteria. Thus, the decision making process continues to move back and forth, around and around as it progresses in what will eventually be a linear direction but which in its actual workings is highly recursive. Key point, then, is that the characteristics of the alternatives we discover will often revise the criteria we have previously identified. The Components of Decision Making The Decision Environment Every decision is made within a decision environment, which is defined as the collection of information, alternatives, values, and preferences available at the time of the decision. An ideal decision environment would include all possible information, all of it accurate, and every possible alternative. However, both information and alternatives are constrained because the time and effort to gain information or identify
alternatives are limited. The time constraint simply means that a decision must be made by a certain time. The effort constraint reflects the limits of manpower, money, and priorities. (You wouldn't want to spend three hours and half a tank of gas trying to find the very best parking place at the mall.) Since decisions must be made within this constrained environment, we can say that the major challenge of decision making is uncertainty, and a major goal of decision analysis is to reduce uncertainty. We can almost never have all information needed to make a decision with certainty, so most decisions involve an undeniable amount of risk. The fact that decisions must be made within a limiting decision environment suggests two things. First, it explains why hindsight is so much more accurate and better at making decisions that foresight. As time passes, the decision environment continues to grow and expand. New information and new alternatives appear--even after the decision must be made. Armed with new information after the fact, the hindsighters can many times look back and make a much better decision than the original maker, because the decision environment has continued to expand. The second thing suggested by the decision-within-an-environment idea follows from the above point. Since the decision environment continues to expand as time passes, it is often advisable to put off making a decision until close to the deadline. Information and alternatives continue to grow as time passes, so to have access to the most information and to the best alternatives, do not make the decision too soon. Now, since we are dealing with real life, it is obvious that some alternatives might no longer be available if too much time passes; that is a tension we have to work with, a tension that helps to shape the cutoff date for the decision. Delaying a decision as long as reasonably possible, then, provides three benefits: 1. The decision environment will be larger, providing more information. There is also time for more thoughtful and extended analysis. 2. New alternatives might be recognized or created. Version 2.0 might be released. 3. The decision maker's preferences might change. With further thought, wisdom, and maturity, you may decide not to buy car X and instead to buy car Y. . Concepts and Definitions 1. Information. This is knowledge about the decision, the effects of its alternatives, the probability of each alternative, and so forth. A major point to make here is that while substantial information is desirable, the statement that "the more information, the better" is not true. Too much information can actually reduce the quality of a decision. See the discussion on The Effects of Quantity on Decision Making above. 2. Alternatives. These are the possibilities one has to choose from. Alternatives can be identified (that is, searched for and located) or even developed (created where they did not previously exist). Merely searching for preexisting alternatives will result in less effective decision making. 3. Criteria. These are the characteristics or requirements that each alternative must possess to a greater or lesser extent. Usually the alternatives are rated on how well they possess each criterion. For example, alternative Toyota ranks an 8 on the criterion of economy, while alternative Buick ranks a 6 on the same criterion. 4. Goals. What is it you want to accomplish? Strangely enough, many decision makers collect a bunch of alternatives (say cars to buy or people to marry) and then ask, "Which should I choose?" without thinking first of what their goals are, what overall objective they want to achieve. Next time you find yourself asking, "What should I do? What should I choose?" ask yourself first, "What are my goals?"
A component of goal identification should be included in every instance of decision analysis. 5. Value. Value refers to how desirable a particular outcome is, the value of the alternative, whether in dollars, satisfaction, or other benefit. 6. Preferences. These reflect the philosophy and moral hierarchy of the decision maker. We could say that they are the decision maker's "values," but that might be confusing with the other use of the word, above. If we could use that word here, we would say that personal values dictate preferences. Some people prefer excitement to calmness, certainty to risk, efficiency to esthetics, quality to quantity, and so on. Thus, when one person chooses to ride the wildest roller coaster in the park and another chooses a mild ride, both may be making good decisions, if based on their individual preferences. 7. Decision Quality. This is a rating of whether a decision is good or bad. A good decision is a logical one based on the available information and reflecting the preferences of the decision maker. The important concept to grasp here is that the quality of a decision is not related to its outcome: a good decision can have either a good or a bad outcome. Similarly, a bad decision (one not based on adequate information or not reflecting the decision maker's preferences) can still have a good outcome. For example, if you do extensive analysis and carefully decide on a certain investment based on what you know about its risks and your preferences, then your decision is a good one, even though you may lose money on the investment. Similarly, if you throw a dart at a listing of stocks and buy the one the dart hits, your decision is a bad one, even though the stock may go up in value. Good decisions that result in bad outcomes should thus not be cause for guilt or recrimination. If you decide to take the scenic route based on what you know of the road (reasonably safe, not heavily traveled) and your preferences (minimal risk, prefer scenery over early arrival), then your decision is a good one, even though you might happen to get in an accident, or have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. It is not justified to say, "Well, this was a bad decision." In judging the quality of a decision, in addition to the concerns of logic, use of information and alternatives, three other considerations come into play: A. The decision must meet the stated objectives most thoroughly and completely. How well does the alternative chosen meet the goals identified? B. The decision must meet the stated objectives most efficiently, with concern over cost, energy, side effects. Are there negative consequences to the alternative that make that choice less desirable? We sometimes overlook this consideration in our search for thrills. C. The decision must take into account valuable byproducts or indirect advantages. A new employee candidate may also have extra abilities not directly related to the job but valuable to the company nonetheless. These should be taken into account. 8. Acceptance. Those who must implement the decision or who will be affected by it must accept it both intellectually and emotionally. Acceptance is a critical factor because it occasionally conflicts with one of the quality criteria. In such cases, the best thing to do may be to choose a lesser quality solution that has greater acceptance. For example, when cake mixes manufacturers put everything into most efficient solution. Only water mixes didn't sell well--they weren't first were put on the market, the mix--the highest quality and had to be added. However, the accepted. After investigation, the
makers discovered that women didn't like the mixes because using the mixes made them feel guilty: they weren't good wives because they were taking a shortcut to making a cake. The solution was to take the egg and sometimes the milk out of the mix so that the women would have something to do to "make" the cake other than just adding water. Now they had to add egg and perhaps milk, making them feel more useful. The need to feel useful and a contributor is one of the most basic of human needs. Thus, while the new solution was less efficient in theoretical terms, it was much more acceptable. Cake mixes with the new formula became quite popular. Thus, the inferior method may produce greater results if the inferior one has greater support. One of the most important considerations in decision making, then, is the people factor. Always consider a decision in light of the people implementation. A decision that may be technologically brilliant but that is sociologically stupid will not work. Only decisions that are implemented, and implemented with thoroughness (and preferably enthusiasm) will work the way they are intended to. Approaches to Decision Making There are two major approaches to decision making in an organization, the authoritarian method in which an executive figure makes a decision for the group and the group method in which the group decides what to do. 1. Authoritarian. The manager makes the decision based on the knowledge he can gather. He then must explain the decision to the group and gain their acceptance of it. In some studies, the time breakdown for a typical operating decision is something like this: make decision, 5 min.; explain decision, 30 min.; gain acceptance, 30 min. 2. Group. The group shares ideas and analyses, and agrees upon a decision to implement. Studies show that the group often has values, feelings, and reactions quite different from those the manager supposes they have. No one knows the group and its tastes and preferences as well as the group itself. And, interestingly, the time breakdown is something like this: group makes decision, 30 min.; explain decision, 0 min.; gain acceptance, 0 min. Clearly, just from an efficiency standpoint, group decision making is better. More than this, it has been shown many times that people prefer to implement the ideas they themselves think of. They will work harder and more energetically to implement their own idea than they would to implement an idea imposed on them by others. We all have a love for our own ideas and solutions, and we will always work harder on a solution supported by our own vision and our own ego than we will on a solution we have little creative involvement with. There are two types of group decision making sessions. First is free discussion in which the problem is simply put on the table for the group to talk about. For example, Joe has been offered a job change from shift supervisor to maintenance foreman. Should he take the job? The other kind of group decision making is developmental discussion or structured discussion. Here the problem is broken down into steps, smaller parts with specific goals. For example, instead of asking generally whether Joe should take the job, the group works on sub questions: What are Joe's skills? What skills does the new job require? How does Joe rate on each of the skills required? Notice that these questions seek specific information rather than more general impressionistic opinions.
Developmental discussion (1) insures systematic coverage of a topic and (2) insures that all members of the group are talking about the same aspect of the problem at the same time. Some Decision Making Strategies As you know, there are often many solutions to a given problem, and the decision maker's task is to choose one of them. The task of choosing can be as simple or as complex as the importance of the decision warrants, and the number and quality of alternatives can also be adjusted according to importance, time, resources and so on. There are several strategies used for choosing. Among them are the following: 1. Optimizing. This is the strategy of choosing the best possible solution to the problem, discovering as many alternatives as possible and choosing the very best. How thoroughly optimizing can be done is dependent on A. importance of the problem B. time available for solving it C. cost involved with alternative solutions D. availability of resources, knowledge E. personal psychology, values Note that the collection of complete information and the consideration of all alternatives is seldom possible for most major decisions, so that limitations must be placed on alternatives. 2. Satisficing. In this strategy, the first satisfactory alternative is chosen rather than the best alternative. If you are very hungry, you might choose to stop at the first decent looking restaurant in the next town rather than attempting to choose the best restaurant from among all (the optimizing strategy). The word satisficing was coined by combining satisfactory and sufficient. For many small decisions, such as where to park, what to drink, which pen to use, which tie to wear, and so on, the satisficing strategy is perfect. 3. Maximax. This stands for "maximize the maximums." This strategy focuses on evaluating and then choosing the alternatives based on their maximum possible payoff. This is sometimes described as the strategy of the optimist, because favorable outcomes and high potentials are the areas of concern. It is a good strategy for use when risk taking is most acceptable, when the go-for-broke philosophy is reigning freely. 4. Maximin. This stands for "maximize the minimums." In this strategy, that of the pessimist, the worst possible outcome of each decision is considered and the decision with the highest minimum is chosen. The Maximin orientation is good when the consequences of a failed decision are particularly harmful or undesirable. Maximin concentrates on the salvage value of a decision, or of the guaranteed return of the decision. It's the philosophy behind the saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Quiz shows exploit the uncertainty many people feel when they are not quite sure whether to go with a maximax strategy or a maximin one: "Okay, Mrs. Freen, you can now choose to take what you've already won and go home, or risk losing it all and find out what's behind door number three." Example: I could put my $10,000 in a genetic engineering company, and if it creates and patents a new bacteria that helps plants resist frost, I could make $50,000. But I could also lose the whole $10,000. But if I invest in a soap company, I might make only $20,000, but if the company goes completely broke and gets liquidated, I'll still get back $7,000 of my investment, based on its book value. Example: It's fourth down and ten yards to go on your twenty yard line. Do you go for a long pass or punt? Maximax would be to pass; Maximin would be to punt.
Decision Making Procedure As you read this procedure, remember our discussion earlier about the recursive nature of decision making. In a typical decision making situation, as you move from step to step here, you will probably find yourself moving back and forth also. 1. Identify the decision to be made together with the goals it should achieve. Determine the scope and limitations of the decision. Is the new job to be permanent or temporary or is that not yet known (thus requiring another decision later)? Is the new package for the product to be put into all markets or just into a test market? How might the scope of the decision be changed--that is, what are its possible parameters? When thinking about the decision, be sure to include a clarification of goals: We must decide whom to hire for our new secretary, one who will be able to create an efficient and organized office. Or, We must decide where to go on vacation, where we can relax and get some rest from the fast pace of society. 2. Get the facts. But remember that you cannot get all the facts. Get as many facts as possible about a decision within the limits of time imposed on you and your ability to process them, but remember that virtually every decision must be made in partial ignorance. Lack of complete information must not be allowed to paralyze your decision. A decision based on partial knowledge is usually better than not making the decision when a decision is really needed. The proverb that "any decision is better than no decision," while perhaps extreme, shows the importance of choosing. When you are racing toward a bridge support, you must decide to turn away to the right or to the left. Which way you turn is less important than the fact that you do indeed turn. As part of your collection of facts, list your feelings, hunches, and intuitive urges. Many decisions must ultimately rely on or be influenced by intuition because of the remaining degree of uncertainty involved in the situation. Also as part of your collection of facts, consult those who will be affected by and who will have to implement your decision. Input from these people not only helps supply you with information and help in making the decision but it begins to produce the acceptance necessary in the implementers because they feel that they are part of the decision making process. As Russell Ackoff noted in The Art of Problem Solving, not consulting people involved in a decision is often perceived as an act of aggression. 3. Develop alternatives. Make a list of all the possible choices you have, including the choice of doing nothing. Not choosing one of the candidates or one of the building sites is in itself a decision. Often a non decision is harmful as we mentioned above--not choosing to turn either right or left is to choose to drive into the bridge. But sometimes the decision to do nothing is useful or at least better than the alternatives, so it should always be consciously included in the decision making process. Also be sure to think about not just identifying available alternatives but creating alternatives that don't yet exist. For example, if you want to choose which major to pursue in college, think not only of the available ones in the catalog, but of designing your own course of study. 4. Rate each alternative. This is the evaluation of the value of each alternative. Consider the negative of each alternative (cost, consequences, problems created, time needed, etc.) and the positive of each (money saved, time saved, added creativity or happiness to company or employees, etc.). Remember here that the alternative that you might like best or that would in the best of all possible worlds be an obvious choice will, however, not be functional in the real world because of too much cost, time, or lack of acceptance by others. Also don't forget to include indirect factors in the rating. If you are deciding between machines X, Y, and Z and you already have an
employee who knows how to operate machine Z, that fact should be considered. If you are choosing an investigative team to send to Japan to look at plant sites and you have very qualified candidates A, B, and C, the fact that B is a very fast typist, a superior photographer or has some other side benefit in addition to being a qualified team member, should be considered. In fact, what you put on your hobbies and interests line on your resume can be quite important when you apply for a job just because employers are interested in getting people with a good collection of additional abilities. 5. Rate the risk of each alternative. In problem solving, you hunt around for a solution that best solves a particular problem, and by such a hunt you are pretty sure that the solution will work. In decision making, however, there is always some degree of uncertainty in any choice. Will Bill really work out as the new supervisor? If we decide to expand into Canada, will our sales and profits really increase? If we let Jane date Fred at age fifteen, will the experience be good? If you decide to marry person X or buy car Y or go to school Z, will that be the best or at least a successful choice? Risks can be rated as percentages, ratios, rankings, grades or in any other form that allows them to be compared. See the section on risk evaluation for more details on risking. 6. Make the decision. If you are making an individual decision, apply your preferences (which may take into account the preferences of others). Choose the path to follow, whether it includes one of the alternatives, more than one of them (a multiple decision) or the decision to choose none. And of course, don't forget to implement the decision and then evaluate the implementation, just as you would in a problem solving experience. One important item often overlooked in implementation is that when explaining the decision to those involved in carrying it out or those who will be affected by it, don't just list the projected benefits: frankly explain the risks and the drawbacks involved and tell why you believe the proposed benefits outweigh the negatives. Implementers are much more willing to support decisions when they (1) understand the risks and (2) believe that they are being treated with honesty and like adults. Remember also that very few decisions are irrevocable. Don't cancel a decision prematurely because many new plans require time to work--it may take years for your new branch office in Paris to get profitable--but don't hesitate to change directions if a particular decision clearly is not working out or is being somehow harmful. You can always make another decision to do something else. Words are powerful. They can drive us to our knees and bring us to tears. They can raise us above our mortal bodies and make us more than we ever dreamed we could be. Words move us, shape us, and define the whole of the world we live in. They constrain our every thought, yet enable our very being. The Shannon-Weaver Model
model into action. It is an individual or group that has a specific reason to begin the communication process. That is, there is a message that they wish another to receive. Encoder Once the purpose of the source has been decided, there must be a specified format for the message to take. This is what the communication encoder does; it takes the concept that the source wants sent out, and puts it into a suitable format for later interpretation. Message The information, idea, or concept that is being communicated from one end of the model to the other is the message. Most of the time, in human communication, the message contains a distinct meaning. When the model was created, Shannon and Weaver were not concerned whether the message had substance, but rather that it was being transmitted. Channel It is essential for meaningful communication that a suitable means to transmit the message be selected. The channel is the route that the message travels on, be it verbal, written, electronic, or otherwise. Noise It is inevitable that noise may come into play during the communication process. Noise could be considered an interference or distortion that changes the initial message; anything that can misconstrue the message may be noise. Noise can be physical, as in an actual sound that muffles the message as it is being said, or it can be semantic, like if the vocabulary used within the message is beyond the knowledge spectrum of its recipient. In order for communication to be effective, noise must be reduced. Decoder Before the message reaches the intended recipient, it must be decoded, or interpreted, from its original form into one that the receiver understands. This is essentially the same interaction as that of source and encoder, only in a reversed sequence. Receiver In order for communication to be executed, there must be a second party at the end of the channel the source has used. The receiver takes in the message that the source has sent out. Feedback For meaningful communication to come to fruition, it is vital that the receiver provides feedback to the source. Feedback relates to the source whether their message has been received, and most importantly, if it has been interpreted accurately. Without feedback, the source would never know if the communication was successful. Ongoing communication is made possible by the cyclical route feedback allows; if more communication between the two parties is necessary, they can follow the model indefinitely. The Shannon-Weaver Communication Model can appropriately and effectively be applied to the stated communication problem. The S-W model is a straightforward model of communication and information transmission. It is an intuitive process or system of communication. It easily connects the message from the sender to the recipient and allows for essential feedback to determine that the message was indeed understood or if further information or clarification is necessary. Communication is a process of transmission of information in any format, in any mode of transmission, be it electronic, telephone conversation, face to face or by the written word to name the obvious. Communication No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others. - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Source The source of communication is the initiator, or origin, that puts the
Many of the problems that occur in an organization are the direct result of people failing to communicate. Faulty communication causes the most problems. It leads to confusion and can cause a good plan to fail. Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another. It involves a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver. Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. Studying the communication process is important because you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise through this process. It is the chain of understanding that integrates the members of an organization from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side. The Communication Process Communication That is what Speak to those near us
Barriers to Communication Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood. - Freeman Teague, Jr. Anything that prevents understanding of the message is a barrier to communication. Many physical and psychological barriers exist:
Culture, background, and bias - We allow our past experiences to change the meaning of the message. Our culture, background, and bias can be good as they allow us to use our past experiences to understand something new, it is when they change the meaning of the message that they interfere with the communication process.
we try to do
Noise - Equipment or environmental noise impedes clear communication. The sender and the receiver must both be able to concentrate on the messages being sent to each other.
Ourselves - Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to confusion and conflict. The "Me Generation" is out when it comes to effective communication. Some of the factors that cause this are defensiveness (we feel someone is attacking us), superiority (we feel we know more that the other), and ego (we feel we are the center of the activity).
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Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender. This can be a concept, idea, information, or feelings. Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols. Decoding: lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that he or she can understand.
Perception - If we feel the person is talking too fast, not fluently, does not articulate clearly, etc., we may dismiss the person. Also our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. We listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss those of low status.
During the transmitting of the message, two elements will be received: content and context. Content is the actual words or symbols of the message which is known as l a n g u a g e - the spoken and written words combined into phrases that make grammatical and semantic sense. We all use and interpret the meanings of words differently, so even simple messages can be misunderstood. And many words have different meanings to confuse the issue even more. Context is the way the message is delivered and is known as p a r a l a n g u a g e - it is the non verbal elements in speech such as the tone of voice, the look in the sender's eyes, body language, hand gestures, and state of emotions (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence, etc.) that can be detected. Although paralanguage or context often cause messages to be misunderstood as we believe what we see more than what we hear; they are powerful communicators that help us to understand each other. Indeed, we often trust the accuracy of nonverbal behaviors more than verbal behaviors. Some leaders think they have communicated once they told someone to do something, "I don't know why it did not get done. I told Jim to it." More than likely, Jim misunderstood the message. A message has NOT been communicated unless it is understood by the receiver (decoded). How do you know it has been properly received? By twoway communication or feedback. This feedback tells the sender that the receiver understood the message, its level of importance, and what must be done with it. Communication is an exchange, not just a give, as all parties must participate to complete the information exchange.
Message - Distractions happen when we focus on the facts rather than the idea. Our educational institutions reinforce this with tests and questions. Semantic distractions occur when a word is used differently than you prefer. For example, the word chairman instead of chairperson, may cause you to focus on the word and not the message.
Environmental - Bright lights, an attractive person, unusual sights, or any other stimulus provides a potential distraction. Smothering - We take it for granted that the impulse to send useful information is automatic. Not true! Too often we believe that certain information has no value to others or they are already aware of the facts.
Stress - People do not see things the same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given moment is influenced by our psychological frames of references - our beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences, and goals.
These barriers can be thought of as filters, that is, the message leaves the sender, goes through the above filters, and is then heard by the receiver. These filters muffle the message. And the way to overcome filters is through active listening and feedback. Active Listening Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is the act of perceiving sound. It is involuntary and simply refers to the reception of aural stimuli. Listening is a selective activity which involves the reception and the interpretation of aural stimuli. It involves decoding the sound into meaning.
Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as when listening to music, story telling, television, or when being polite. People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 WPM. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into m i n d d r i f t - thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is a c t i v e l i s t e n i n g - which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding. I t t a k e s t h e s a m e a m o u n t o r m o r e e n e r g y t h a n s p e a k i n g . It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. The following are a few traits of active listeners:
phrase, or sucking air in deeply and blowing it hard shows that you are also exasperated with the situation. Carl Rogers listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations. Notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand:
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Evaluative: Making a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person's statement. Interpretive: Paraphrasing - attempting to explain what the other person's statement means. Supportive: Attempting to assist or bolster the other communicator. Probing: Attempting to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point. Understanding: Attempting to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements.
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Spend more time listening than talking. Do not finish the sentences of others. Do not answer questions with questions. Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them. Never daydreams or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk. Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations. Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking. Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly. Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking openended questions. Walk others through by summarizing. Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them. Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.
Imagine how much better daily communications would be if listeners tried to understand first, before they tried to evaluate what someone is saying. Nonverbal Behaviors of Communication To deliver the full impact of a message, use nonverbal behaviors to raise the channel of interpersonal communication:
communication. It signals interest in others and increases the speaker's credibility. People who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth, and credibility.
Facial Expressions: Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits happiness, friendliness, warmth, and liking. So, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and people will react favorably. They will be more comfortable around you and will want to listen more.
Feedback When you know something, say what you know. When you don't know something, say that you don't know. That is knowledge. Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius) The purpose of feedback is to alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. It includes verbal and nonverbal responses to another person's message. Providing feedback is accomplished by paraphrasing the words of the sender. Restate the sender's feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than repeating their words. Your words should be saying, "This is what I understand your feelings to be, am I correct?" It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement, dipping your eyebrows shows you don't quite understand the meaning of their last
Gestures: If you fail to gesture while speaking you may be perceived as boring and stiff. A lively speaking style captures the listener's attention, makes the conversation more interesting, and facilitates understanding.
Posture and body orientation: You communicate numerous messages by the way you talk and move. Standing erect and leaning forward communicates to listeners that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Interpersonal closeness results when you and the listener face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest.
Proximity: Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with others. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading the other person's space. Some of these are: rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion.
Vocal: Speaking can signal nonverbal communication when you include such vocal elements as: tone, pitch, rhythm,
timbre, loudness, and inflection. For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms of many speakers is that they speak in a monotone voice. Listeners perceive this type of speaker as boring and dull. Speaking Hints Speak comfortable words! - William Shakespeare
something else? The trouble with these extra signals is that we do not always have the full context. What if the person emailed me and I replied great (while frowning). Would it evoke the same response? Emotions Trust your instincts. Most emotions are difficult to imitate. For example, when you are truly happy, the muscles used for smiling are controlled by the limbic system and other parts of the brain, which are not under voluntary control. When you force a smile, a different part of the brain is used - the cerebral cortex (under voluntary control), hence different muscles are used. This is why a clerk, who might not have any real interest in you, has a "fake" look when he forces a smile. Of course, some actors learn to control all of their face muscles, while others draw on a past emotional experience to produce the emotional state they want. But this is not an easy trick to pull off all the time. There is a good reason for this - part of our emotions evolved to deal with other people and our empathic nature. If these emotions could easily be faked, they would do more harm than good (Pinker, 1997). So our emotions not only guide our decisions, they can also be communicated to others to help them in their decisions - of course their emotions will be the ultimate guide, but the emotions they discover in others become part of their knowledge base. References
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When speaking or trying to explain something, ask the listeners if they are following you. Ensure the receiver has a chance to comment or ask questions. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes - consider the feelings of the receiver. Be clear about what you say. Look at the receiver. Make sure your words match your tone and body language (Nonverbal Behaviors). Vary your tone and pace. Do not be vague, but on the other hand, do not complicate what you are saying with too much detail. Do not ignore signs of confusion.
On Communication Per Se (a few random thoughts) On Discussing Communication Trying to speak of something as messy as communication in technical terms seems to be another form of the "math and science" argument, that is, math and science and technology are the answer to all of our problems. - Anonymous But what forms of human behavior are not messy? Learning is not "antiseptic," yet it is discussed all the time - we do not leave it to the academics, such as Bloom, Knowles, Dugan, or Rossett. Leadership and management seems to be even messier, yet we categorize it, build models of it, index it, chop it and slice it and dice it, build pyramids out of it, and generally have a good time discussing it. But when it comes to "communication," we call it too messy to play with and leave it up to Chomsky, Pinker, and others to write about so that we can read about it. Yet we all communicate almost every single day of our lives, which is much more than we will ever do with learning or leadership. Paul Ekman In the mid 1960s, Paul Ekman studied emotions and discovered six facial expressions that almost everyone recognizes world-wide: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. Although they were controversial at first (he was booed off the stage when he first presented it to a group of anthropologists and later called a fascist and a racist) they are now widely accepted. One of the controversies still lingering is the amount of context needed to interpret them. For example, if someone reports to me that they have this great ideal that they would like to implement, and I say that would be great, but I look on them with a frown, is it possible that I could be thinking about
Butler, Gillian, Ph.D. and Hope, Tony, M.D. (1996). M a n a g i n g Y o u r M i n d . New York: Oxford University Press. Mehrabian, Albert and Morton Wiener, 1967, "Decoding of inconsistent communications," J o u r n a l o f P e r s o n a l i t y a n d S o c i a l P s y c h o l o g y 6:109-114 Mehrabian, Albert and Susan R. Ferris, 1967, "Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels," J o u r n a l o f C o n s u l t i n g P s y c h o l o g y 31:248-252. Pearson, J. (1983). I n t e r p e r s o n a l Communication. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foreman and Company. Pinker, Steven (1997). H o w t h e M i n d W o r k s . New York: W. W. Norton & Company. http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadcom.html
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